Now we are able to enjoy some relaxation of the Covid restrictions, and get together again with some friends and family, we can also reflect on how lockdown and the past year has affected us, and what we have learned about ourselves during this difficult time. It has certainly been challenging - especially the last lockdown through winter.
While we have been struggling to live through a new kind of life, it sometimes it feels as if we have been made to look at ourselves as if through a magnifying glass, and discover things about ourselves that maybe we weren't aware of. Perhaps they were good things! Maybe they weren't, and we recognise that now we want to change them. It has also helped us to recognise what we need in our life, what we missed, and what is most important for us. We have had an opportunity to look for new and different things to do to replace the things we have been unable to do, and I for one have learned lots of new things that maybe I wouldn't have done before! We have had to look at life differently and grasp different opportunities.
I have this picture of a tree canopy in my room and apart from the fact that I love looking at trees, it is a reminder that sometimes it is good to see things from another perspective, another view. Everything can look different and this can help us to have new understandings and to make new decisions.
Is there anything you would like to change? There is a way and when you are ready you can go for it, step by step, and get where you want to be.
Enjoy the Spring - we can look forward to a happy Summer!
I hope you are managing to cope with the new-at-the-moment normal….
It is a strange in-between time, we have more freedom, but we have to take responsibility for making the right decisions for ourselves and others.
Talking to friends and clients, it seems that people are feeling confused about what we can or cannot not be doing, and this creates insecurity and a feeling of being out of control. Other people are making decisions for us and we have to trust in their judgement. Feeling disempowered can lead to anxiety and depression, conditions which have already been experienced by many during lockdown.
If we are anxious it is difficult to think clearly and focus, so it is important to find ways to be calm, take our mind off problems and think about what is going well, however small the good things may be.
When we focus on the good things, our brain works differently and produces happy hormones like Serotonin and Dopamine, which make us feel good. If we feel good we can think more sensibly and come up with solutions to problems, instead of feeling overwhelmed with negative thoughts.
This will help us to feel more in control, so focus on the things you do have control over. These may be things at work or at home, and enjoy the sense of achievement you get from doing them. This is a great time to discover how even the smallest things can make us feel happy!
So, if you are feeling anxious try this:
Find a comfortable place to sit quietly, preferably outside in nature. Contact with nature is proven to be beneficial for our mental health.
Relax. Close your eyes. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Enjoy doing nothing. Feel your body relax.
Listen to whatever sounds there are, especially if its birdsong!
Think about something that has made you feel happy recently, or even something from the past that made you feel good. Enjoy it for as long as you can.
Think of something you would like to do that would make you feel happy. Imagine how you will feel when you get to do it. Enjoy it.
Think positively about how you could make that happen. Imagine it.
Take a few more slow deep breaths before you get up again and move.
Stay calm, stay focused on what is going well, and what you can control! Keep well.
Speaking in public is one of the most common fears people have, whether it is in front of a small group of people or talking to a large meeting. I have helped many clients deal with this fear, as it is something many people have to do at work. Some people find enough confidence to get through it, but for some it is a real phobia, called Glossophobia.
This phobia results in a feeling of intense anxiety, and this creates the Fight, Flight, Freeze response, so all sensible thought disappears and the memory disappears too.
The fear can be caused by worrying about what others will think of us, that we might make a mistake, that we might forget what we wanted to say, and that it might not be good enough. So, in order to dispel these thoughts and the lack of confidence that goes with them:
PLAN! Begin by planning what you want to say. Decide how long it needs to be, and what visual aids you may need. Think about your audience, what information do they need from you? Make sure you are familiar with any technical equipment you may need to use – screens, computers etc. Rehearse it, and time it, so you know it will all work.
PRACTICE! Practice it in front of a few friends and family, so you get familiar with it and you will grow in confidence and feel in control. When you are confident it will be easier to relax and engage with your audience. Remember not to speak too quickly, a slower pace is easier for the audience to take in and it will help you feel calmer too.
ORGANISE! Have some useful notes or prompts handy to refer to, in case you need them. These will keep you on track and can be the structure of your talk. Keep any visuals relevant and simple, as your audience will be more interested in you and what you are saying.
RELAX! We think clearly when we are relaxed and calm, so take a few slow deep breaths. This reduces anxiety, and takes us into the part of our brain that is sensible and logical, and in control. Our brain believes what we tell it, so give it a positive message – I can do this, I am fine, This will go well, I know I can…… Stand up straight and know that you have done enough preparation to be confident. Picture yourself doing this talk with great success!
SMILE! The worst bit for people is usually the few minutes before the talk so just focus on being calm, slow your breathing, and smile as you begin. This will help you produce Serotonin, the feelgood hormone. This will counteract anxiety, and your audience may well smile back at you! If you know someone friendly in the audience focus on them from time to time, looking them in the eye to make contact.
Finding ways to relax in life helps to keep us calm generally, so spend time doing things you enjoy when you can. This will help you produce Serotonin which makes you feel good and keeps you in the sensible part of your brain - the Conscious Mind. When you operate from there you can make good rational, sensible decisions and you will feel confident and in control. Perfect for speaking in Public! Make sure your self talk is positive - focusing on what you want to do.
Go for it!
What title would you give your autobiography? I was asked this recently at a meeting of the Book Club I belong to. It actually only took me a few minutes as I had thought about this some years ago.
I had forgotten about it, as I had decided that probably, my autobiography wasn't likely to be a best seller, and so simply concentrated on my job, teaching.
This unrequired title was given to me by the mother of one of the children in my nursery class. We had challenged the children to see how many different things they could fit inside a matchbox (excluding matches…) – an activity to promote maths, language sills, vocabulary, concepts of shape and size etc. … They were all keen and the next week they started bringing their boxes in. One little girl, Charlotte, 4yrs, handed me her box and it seemed pretty heavy for a matchbox, as many of the others did. Her mother caught my eye and said: “Don’t forget the glitter on the sultana!”
When we looked through the boxes with the children, sure enough in the contents of Charlottes’ box, there was a little sultana with a tiny piece of glitter shining on it. The piece of glitter was one of over 100 things in her box – and not to be forgotten! I was so glad that her mother had mentioned it, I might not have noticed it. It was so lovely that Charlotte and her mother had worked together, filling her box, having fun, deciding what could go in it and counting them all up.
It made me wonder about what else we might not notice, in school or elsewhere. Do we always really look, really listen?
I am not teaching in school now, but my book title is still meaningful for me. I now help my clients to remember to focus on what they want to achieve, and to notice even the smallest good things that may be happening around them, the things that make them feel happy, or feel proud of themselves. It is too easy to miss those things if our focus is elsewhere, perhaps on our problems.
When we enjoy the small things, we are more likely to relax, and feel calmer. We will also produce hormones that bring about feelings of wellbeing, like Serotonin. Do things you enjoy, that make you happy, and focus on what you want to do, rather than what might go wrong.
And, keep your eyes open for the glitter, don’t miss it!
People usually come for hypnotherapy because they have a problem, or problems, and maybe they are finding it difficult to relax, to be happy and confident.
Because they feel like this, they can find it difficult to notice the good things that are probably happening to them - they are focused on what is going wrong.
When they first come, they tell me why they have come and what they need help with, and then we talk about what it is they want to achieve, how they want to be. And this is what we focus on - their preferred future, whatever that may be for them.
One of the things my clients soon get used to, is me saying to them at the beginning of every session, so what was good about your week, or what was better for you this week? This can be difficult for some people because they haven’t been aware of the positive things happening for them, and this is often a symptom of depression and anxiety. It can take a while for them to rediscover that habit of noticing and enjoying even some of the smallest good things that happen for them. There are usually quite a few every day, and it helps us all to appreciate them, it makes us feel good, even for a moment or two. Even on our darkest days there will be something if we look for it.
When we are sad or depressed we get quite stuck in a part of our brain that will encourage us to be anxious, to stay on alert for trouble, it is trying to protect us. So talking about the problem will make it difficult to feel better. Talking about how we want to be, and how we will feel when life is happier, and focusing on the good things, takes us to a different part of the brain, the Conscious Mind, where we can feel calmer, more positive and confident. It is a good place to think clearly, and to come up with some good decisions.
Remembering what has been good for us and enjoying how those times made us feel, is important - it helps us to feel more positive generally. My clients often think that perhaps I am asking them to come up with some big events or achievements, which would obviously be daunting! But that is not the case, often the little things happening around us can give us as much pleasure as the bigger things. Here are some things that have cheered my clients up:
“I saw a hedgehog in my garden last evening!”
“ With my friend I freed a bumble bee from a spiders web - we felt proud afterwards”
“ It wasn’t a great week really but I was pleased because I coped with it all much better than I would have done three weeks ago”
“ I met up with some friends at the weekend - that was fun.”
“ I spoke to one of my neighbours for the first time”
“My friend said she thought my garden was so peaceful and lovely.”
These are all great - and they made these clients feel better. When we feel better we can think more clearly and start to come up with some solutions for whatever is troubling us.
So - what has been good for you so far today? Think of at least three things, and enjoy thinking about them!
Me? Well, the sun is shining, the postman brought a delivery for me just before I had to go out, and I saw two robins in my garden! There will be more....